Project Title

Dirofilaria immitis Prevalence in Canis latrans in Kentucky

Project Abstract

Dirofilaria immitis (D. immitis), the canine heartworm, a blood parasite of canines transmitted by mosquitoes, can be found in domestic dogs all across the nation, but more often in the southeastern United States. Given the right environment, heartworms can infect other species such as Canis latrans (coyotes). The coyotes’ capability to adapt has them encroaching on suburban residences. Unfortunately, this allows for more interactions between coyotes and domestic dogs. While a large number of dog owners keep their pets on heartworm preventives, there is no way to keep the coyote population on preventives. The concern is the potential for coyotes to serve as a reservoir of canine heartworm for the domestic dog. If this is true it would make it difficult to eradicate the parasite.

Through networking and contacts with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, carcasses of coyotes have been collected from across the state. Sources include predator tournaments, pest control individuals, and trappers. Those collected so far were euthanatized at the time of collection and presented to the laboratory either refrigerated or frozen.

Gender and overall health of the coat are determined. A standard postmortem exam is performed. Any gunshots/injuries that might hinder the report are notated. Organs are examined for fat content. Hearts are removed and opened to observe any adult heartworms that might be present. Heartworms are preserved in formalin for counting and sexing at a later date. Hearts are then weighed. The weight of the carcasses and weight of the heart are compared to give a cardiac weight. This allowed for the overall health of the heart to be determined.

A canine tooth is removed from each of the coyotes to be submitted at a later date for age determination. Canine teeth extracted from the coyotes will be collected and shipped according to the directions specified by the subcontracting laboratory, Matson’s Laboratory located in Manhattan, Montana. Aging of the animal by normal canine teeth wear is not always reliable for a wild species. Thus exact determination is needed. Information gathered will be used to determine if there is a correlation between age and incident of heartworm infestation. Much like the correlation that has already be observed of heartworm prevalence from coyotes in different regions of the state.

Funding Type

Research Grant

Academic College

Hutson School of Agriculture




Master of Science

Graduation Expected

May 2021




Johna Veatch

Academic College

Hutson School of Agriculture

Beginning date of project


End date of project


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